“There is geometry in the humming of the strings. There is music in the spacing of the spheres.”
— Pythagoras, 5th century B.C.
Several years ago, I made it my mission to give my daughters an appreciation for the music of my generation. After all, that’s something we did right.
From the war-induced rebelliousness of the 1960s and the acidic styles of the ‘70s, ours was groundbreaking music. We felt the Vietnam War in Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Run Through The Jungle” and connected to the anti-war sentiments in the “I-Feel-Like-I’m-Fixing-To-Die Rag” by Country Joe and The Fish. Then there were the lesser knowns — I think the most searing of all indictments against the U.S. and its war policy was found in John Prine’s “The Great Compromise,” though his song “Your Flag Decal Won’t Get You Into Heaven Anymore” was one of most fun.
However, the defining song for that conflict, I think, came later: “Born in the USA” by Bruce Springsteen can still bring tears to my eyes, even though I never fought in Vietnam or served in the military.
I could go on about the war songs of our time, but then I’d fall into what my daughters call one of my “lectures” — and I want to avoid that. Suffice it to say, our music reflected some harsh realities of those times — and I think even Amy and Maya can listen and understand that.
Of course, my girls have the sounds of their own generation, and they’ve done their best to hook me into some of it. Amy has introduced me to Green Day, which I think is pretty good, while Maya’s a big fan of Ingrid Michaelson’s music, which I’ve come to enjoy. And while Maya might not be so much into Sugarland, I’ve declared “Stuck Like Glue” to be “our song” and she doesn’t seem to object to it.
A person’s taste in music evolves as we age. Maybe it’s KFUN in the morning or even The Bull on an occasional evening, but I’ve come to enjoy country music more these days. And yet, even with county and western, I prefer the older songs, songs like the “outlaw country” that Kris Kristofferson, Waylon Jennings and Johnny Cash produced back in their day. In fact, back in my day, Kristofferson’s “The Prophet: Chapter 33” was something of a theme song for my life.
I lived in and out of Nashville, Tenn., for about 10 years, so naturally I picked up on some country music back then. But that’s also where I fell for the blues, even though it’s more deeply rooted in my homestate of Arkansas.
For Amy’s last birthday, she hinted strongly about the desire to see B.B. King in concert down in El Paso, just a few miles from New Mexico State University where she’s attending. I guess my lectures didn’t hurt, or maybe it was that year she spent in Memphis that paid off. Either way, I was proud to buy her way into that experience.
I’ve never heard King in concert. But, hey, I heard the Doobie Brothers in their heyday and Bruce Springsteen when I was old enough to fully appreciate his breadth and depth. So when I moan about the artists I missed in concert, I’m reminded of the lyrics in Joe Walsh’s “Life’s Been Good”: “I can’t complain but sometimes I still do.”
As for Maya, whose 16th birthday is today, I’m giving her Aretha Franklin’s “Respect” and a collection of Linda Ronstadt’s greatest hits. To this day I quote the “R-E-S-P-E-C-T” that Franklin demanded. And I figure that Maya, who’s growing up with more of a Spanish influence than I ever had, will fall for the voice and versatility of Ronstadt.
From the beginning, I’ve tried to instill in my daughters a love for all music. I hope I’ve done that. It’s what connects the generations.
Want to give your kid a great gift? Hand over some of the music you grew up with. You’ll be passing along a part of your life, a backdrop to your own formative years, and they might just like it.
Or at least, as Jimmy Buffett said, “that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.”
Tom McDonald is editor and publisher of the Optic. He may be reached at 505-425-6796, ext. 237, or firstname.lastname@example.org.